One second day story from the Pac-12 I particularly enjoyed this weekend was this column from Tim Kawakami about the impact of the catch made by Kodi Whitfield in Stanford’s victory over UCLA. This column was a great example of a second day story. Rather than lead with the implications the victory for Stanford had in returning to the Rose Bowl, Kawakami showcased the fantastic catch made by Whitfield, how important it was for his confidence and how his father reacted before slowly including the bigger picture. I appreciate the stance Kawakami took in this story, as the focus wasn’t so much on the catch itself, but the circumstances and the aftermath. It would have been an easy trap to fixate on the occurrence, but Kawakami explained the bigger picture, which I thought was a nice touch. Finally, the way that the column ended, both hinting at the family dynamic that Kodi and Bob Whitfield have and the future use of the underutilized Whitfield, reminded me that college football is still played by kids, which seemed to be the overarching theme of the article – it was a great moment for a young kid that he will remember his whole life.
The No. 5 Stanford Cardinal (3-0, 1-0) are poised to return to Pasadena. However, their eyes are not simply set on a Rose Bowl appearance as the representative for the PAC-12. Head coach, David Shaw, and the Cardinal are setting their sights on the BCS National Championship played in Pasadena on January 6, 2014. It’s far from a stretch to believe that Stanford can accomplish that feat.
Stanford’s team is a mirror image of their hard-working coach David Shaw. Under Shaw, Stanford is 25-4, and only have two non-conference losses in Shaw’s tenure. Last year, Stanford captured its first PAC-12 championship in nearly 13 years. They have appeared to back-to-back BCS Bowl games (2012 Fiesta Bowl and 2013 Rose Bowl).
Shaw’s emphasis for the Cardinal is the aggressiveness of the offensive and defensive line. “That’s the beginning of football,” Shaw says. “Our players, every time they walk in, they’ll feel both lines. That’s where football is won. That’s where the game is established. That’s where dominance is established.”
The stats certainly suggest Shaw’s sentiment. This year, the Cardinal are giving up 20.3 ppg while scoring nearly 37.0 ppg. The Cardinal continue to be a balanced offense. Stanford averages 211.3 yards rushing per game while throwing for a little under 200 yards a game (187.7).
Although junior quarterback Kevin Hogan is only averaging 187.7 yards a game, he has only passed the ball 62 times. Additionally, Hogan has a top-ten QBR at 87.7 (a rating higher than AJ McCaron, Johhny Manziel, Aaron Murray and Tahj Boyd). Why pass the ball when the defense can’t stop the run? Stanford averages over 5.0 yards per rush, and they have run the ball 124 times. The Cardinal have four rushers who average over 5.0 yards a carry, including Hogan himself.
Stanford’s balanced attack has generate much success against PAC-12 opponents. Under Shaw, they are staggering 18-2 in PAC-12 conference play. Over the past few seasons, the PAC-12 North division title has been decided in an early November meeting with rival Oregon Ducks. The Cardinal’s likelihood of repeating as conference champs will be determined in the upcoming weeks as they have four top-25 games left on their schedule, including Oregon, Washington, and Notre Dame.
This weekend, Stanford Cardinal will travel to CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA to face the Washington State Cougars on ESPN, kickoff scheduled for 10:00 pm.